Monthly Archives: January 2009

I’ve Said it Before…

…I Love Santa Ana’s.

Urban Tumbleweeds

Urban Tumbleweeds


Tijuana Doorways

Photos by Kinsee Morlan




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Too Much Public Radio?

I think I listen to too much public radio and too many podcasts.

This morning while waiting in the border line I started listening to the latest podcast from The Moth. It was Mike Birbiglia, a comedian and actor telling a story about his problems with sleep walking. After a few minutes I started to recognize the story and by the halfway point I realized I’d heard it before. Performances from The Moth often get played on This American Life, a public radio show and podcast. As it was an entertaining story I kept listening.

Later in the day I started listening to the latest Sound of Young America show (another podcast/public radio show). The guest this week was none other than Mike Birbiglia. As I listened I felt like I was hearing the same story again. I found it weird because the thing about The Moth is that the stories are told live without notes, but as I kept listening I was heard the exact same story, with the same jokes and exact same language as I heard hours before.

Mike Birbiglia was on the show promoting his new one man play Sleepwalk With Me. He told the story of wanting to write a one man romantic comedy, which got me interested, I love romantic comedies and I think if done right a one-man-play-romantic-comedy would be awesome. Then he started telling the story exactly how I heard it on The Moth. I got a lot less excited about his one man show. (It’s playing in New York so I’m not going anyways) but I felt like if I went I’d be sitting through this story a fourth time. Towards the end of the interview he did talk a bit more about it, which made it sound like it might have more to it than just the story he told on The Moth. But then I worried it might be like those movies, with really awesome and funny trailers and commercials, that when you go to see them the only funny parts were in the trailer. Hopefully his show isn’t like that, and if I were in NYC I might check it out, because he is funny and a good storyteller.

But I did start thinking that I might be listening to a little bit too much public radio.

New Years Resolution: Training for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic

Last Sunday afternoon, while most people in San Diego were watching the Chargers lose to the Steelers I was out enjoying an unseasonably hot day in January with a bike ride through La Mesa and up Mount Helix. One of my new years resolutions this year is to train for, and ultimately ride in, The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. The Iron Horse is a 47 mile race/ride from Durango to Silverton Colorado. The idea behind it is the race the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train from the start in Durango to the finish in Silverton.

I’ve never ridden 50 miles, but I have no doubt that I can do a 50 mile ride. The part that starts to worry me is the two 10,000 foot mountain passes between Durango and Silverton. Living in coastal-California all my life, I’ve only been above 10,000 feet a few times, and never ridden a bike up that high. It’s going to take a lot of exercise and training to get ready for this.

So Sunday I donned my new lyrca shorts (those padded spandex like shorts road bikers wear), bike jersey shirt and rode off in the 85F+ heat. I only rode about 15 miles, just warming up, my first time riding in quite a while but it felt good. I was huffing and puffing as I got to the top of Mount Helix, which isn’t a good sign seeing as its only 1000ft or so above sea level, but I’ve got time to work on that.

Unfortunately toward the end of my ride the freewheel on my maintenance-neglected bike siezed up, so I need to do some serious cleanup on it, and probably take it into the shop for a tune-up. Luckily I’ve got my fixed gear I can ride for a while.

I’ll be posting periodic updates here on my training progress and hopefully come the end of May some pictures and my results.

Audience Atomization Overcome?

Audience Atomization Overcome? That sounds overly complex to me. Fortunately, the article the name comes from: Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Net Erodes the Authority of the Press by Jay Rosen on The Huffington Post isn’t nearly as hard to understand as the title given it.

The first part of the article focuses on the inherent and often unacknowledged bias of political journalism. I think in some ways that bias can be carried out to more than just politics and more than just journalism. Anyone acting as an expert or authority on a subject fills the role described I think.

But it wasn’t the first part of the article that got me to read it. I wanted to hear how the net is changing things. That is the focus of the second part of the article, it talks about how blogs allow like minded individuals to network and share their ideas.

It’s all well and good, I agree with a lot of the article more or less, but I was disappointed that it didn’t touch on the fact that this benefit that comes with the internet, how easy it is for people to share news and their opinions also places a burden on the consumer of that information. Because anyone can have a voice the reader must determine if the author they are reading has any authority on a given subject at all. It’s easy for someone to create a professional looking website or blog and then spew total nonsense while acting like an expert.

That is what I see as one of the biggest hurtles to online media. The consumer has to be much more vigilent about what they read and how much they scrutinize it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But because there is hardly ever anyone fact checking blog posts I think news and media must be consumed online in a much different fashion than with the traditional medial.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson was recently admitted the baseball Hall of Fame. I was a huge baseball fan when I was a kid, and Rickey Henderson was one of my favorite players. I have a vivid image in my head of Rickey standing above above second base, with his dark sunglasses on after stealing the base. I’m sure pictures like this were featured on many of his baseball cards.

It wasn’t until years later when I was a little older and Rickey came to San Diego that I realized how eccentric he was. I found this blog post the other day outlining 25 great Rickey Henderson moments. They’re not all true, but I bet the majority of them are.

Some Thoughts on the US-Mexico Border

The REAL ID Act allows the Department of Homeland Security to disregard all environmental laws to protect our borders. I don’t think they’ve started filling in the canyon on the border near the Tijuana Estuary yet, something that will cause all sorts of environmental problems with run off, erosion and effect plenty of birds, but it’s in the works.

Today I just read a story about the DHS using the REAL ID Act to start building roads in designated wilderness east of San Diego in preparation of building the triple border fence. Wilderness designation is supposed to keep the land free of human influence, a road and border fence are definitely human influence. A couple of years ago a border patrol spokesman said the area wouldn’t need fencing because the rugged land was fence enough, but apparently something has changed and they’re going ahead with it anyways.

One of my favorite things about much of the designated wilderness areas east of San Diego on the border are that they’re not wilderness for humans. There are few trails, few natural wonders for people to visit, but plenty of wide open space for the environment to be left alone. What wilderness designation was meant for. But no longer for the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area.

The blog post linked above (and here it is again in case you missed it, because I think it’s important to get the word out) is the first mention of this I’ve seen. Nothing in the newspapers, no other press. The DHS is doing a lot of stuff with very little public input.

The Best Haircut of My Life

Straight Razor Shave. Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Straight Razor Shave. Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Last night I went down to Two Roses Inc, a tattoo parlor, barbershop, and cafe in Barrio Logan for a full service haircut and it was amazing. The place has a good feel to it, everyone was friendly, at least three or four tattoo artists introduced themselves to me and chatted while I was waiting including the owners.

By the time I got in the chair Carlos the barber was chatting and we were having a good time, looking back on it, I’m not sure why I turned down his offer of a glass of Scotch while I was getting trimmed, but there will always be a next time.

After the cut he started prepping me for a shave with a straight razor. I was really looking forward to this because I hate shaving, so someone else doing it for me seemed pretty nice, and because of the old-time-machismo-getting-shaved-with-a-big-ole-sharp-blade thing. He started by putting some moisturizer on my face. Then wrapping me in a hot towel. He did this about three times to soften my skin and get it ready to shave. He put on some warm shaving cream and started shaving. By this time he’d been chatting it up and built some rapport so I wasn’t nervous about the blade at all.

he shaved all around, taking extra care around my beloved moustache. When done he toweled me off, put some sort of after-shave on that burned, but as he said “it doesn’t quite hurt, just makes you feel alive”. He put some more moisturizer on there and then toweled all the hair of my face, back and everywhere else it ended up. I was feeling great, in a sort of relaxation-haze, about to stand up when I pulled out a massager and gave me a little back and neck massage. It was already the best haircut of my life, but that just put it over the top.

He even recomended some waxy like stuff for styling my moustache, I’m gonna give that a try tonight to see if it holds up better than the Clubman’s wax I’ve been using.

Not only was this the best, most relaxing haircut ever. It was cheap too. The haircut was just a bit more than Supercuts would charge, the shave was $16 as well. The best part about it was the comfortable, old time feel they’ve got going.

Santa Ana Winds

Santa Ana winds are my favorite weather phenomena. Santa Ana winds happen in Southern California (I wonder if they happen other places in the world?) in the fall and winter, the wind blows in from the east towards the ocean, usually getting warmer closer to the coast. They’re unseasonably warm and windy. I’m not really sure what causes them, scientists say it’s a misconception that it’s hot air from the desert, something to do with adiabatic compression but ya got me.

Santa Ana winds are coming back to San Diego this weekend and I’m excited. Most people hate them but I love it. I heard on the radio this morning that it would be in the 80’s this weekend, but this weather report says only low 70’s. Either way it’s going to get dry, windy and warm. A bad combo for fires, but otherwise nice and balmy weather.

Fire Lookout Towers

A few months ago I was reading through The Paris Review when I came across a story called Diary of a Fire Lookout by Philip Connors (you can read an excerpt online, and maybe find it at the library to read the rest). It’s a diary of the authors time spent as a fire lookout in the rugged Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

Fire lookouts are becoming more and more rare as modern technology encroaches upon the task of spotting forest fires. Which is sad because some of my favorite writers spent summers high up in a lookout tower thinking, writing, and watching for signs of smoke. Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. Ed Abbey’s Black Sun. Doug Peacock spent some time as fire lookout after Vietnam, I’m not sure that he ever wrote about it, but it probably helped clear his head and help him to readjust.

As Connors’s story shows, not all fire lookout towers have been shuttered, but most aren’t in service anymore. The Forest Fire Lookout Association has a list of links to retired lookout towers available for rent, most from the US Forest Service.

A recent article in the UT talks about the old fire lookout tower on Palomar Mountain reopening to be staffed by volunteers.

There’s something romantic about fire lookout towers, spending all that time in the woods. The solitude. The open space. The few journeys into town, via steep mountain trails, to get supplies. The chance encounters with passing hikers. Connors’s story captures the mood perfectly.